Saturday, June 05, 2010

A Swirled America?

Last year I did a post inspired by a T-shirt that my son received as a gift called, A Swirled World. This is part of what I said at the time:

"I was also thinking that my son's T-shirt is an apt metaphor for the kind of world that Baha'is are striving to build. This is a world that is united in its diversity, where human differences come together in ways that make things better.

"This diversity, this difference is like the naturally created dissimilarity and variety of the limbs and organs of the human body, for each one contributeth to the beauty, efficiency and perfection of the whole. When these different limbs and organs come under the influence of man's sovereign soul, and the soul's power pervadeth the limbs and members, veins and arteries of the body, then difference reinforceth harmony, diversity strengtheneth love, and multiplicity is the greatest factor for co-ordination"(Abdu'l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu'l-Baha, p. 291).

In order for a swirl to work it requires that the different flavors can be both seen and tasted. Otherwise it is simply a big, sweet, mixed-up blob. Creating a global blob is not what Baha'is are trying to do. We are trying to swirl the world."

CNN has a story about a study recently released by the Pew Research Center about interracial marriage in America. It makes me wonder, are we moving toward a swirled America?:

(CNN) -- The first time Priya Merrill, who is Indian, brought her white boyfriend home for Thanksgiving in 2007, the dinner was uncomfortable and confusing. She still remembers her family asking if Andrew was the bartender or a family photographer.

The couple married last August, and her Indian family has warmed up to her husband despite their racial differences.

"I think we get the best of both cultures," said Merrill, 27, of New York. She added, "Sometimes I just forget that we're interracial. I don't really think about it."

Asian. White. Black. Hispanic. Do race and ethnicity matter when it comes to marriage?

Apparently, race is mattering less these days, say researchers at the Pew Research Center, who report that nearly one out of seven new marriages in the U.S. is interracial or interethnic. The report released Friday, which interviewed couples married for less than a year, found racial lines are blurring as more people choose to marry outside their race.

"From what we can tell, this is the highest [percentage of interracial marriage] it has ever been," said Jeffrey Passel, a senior demographer for the Pew Research Center.

He said interracial marriages have soared since the 1980s. About 6.8 percent of newly married couples reported marrying outside their race or ethnicity in 1980. That figure jumped to about 14.6 percent in the Pew report released this week, which surveyed newlyweds in 2008. (Read the whole story here. You can read additional recent media coverage of interracial marriage here, here, here, and here.)

Reading about the results of the Pew study and some of the stories associated with it got me thinking about a lot of things. One is that the patterns associated with interracial marriage are complex. For example, racial attitudes among various couples can range from color-blind to color-conscious (I prefer "color-loving" personally). Given my views on color-blindness , I'd be curious about the impact of color-blind ideology on interracial couples where one or both embrace it.

An issue that I don't hear discussed as much is what motivates choosing a marriage partner of a different race. Does the motive matter? My interest as far as motivation goes is whether a person's religious or spiritual beliefs motivate interracial marriage. Motivation is a really interesting area of research in the psychology of religion and something the Universal House of Justice has emphasized as central to religion's influence:

"Religion, as we are all aware, reaches to the roots of motivation. When it has been faithful to the spirit and example of the transcendent Figures who gave the world its great belief systems, it has awakened in whole populations capacities to love, to forgive, to create, to dare greatly, to overcome prejudice, to sacrifice for the common good and to discipline the impulses of animal instinct. Unquestionably, the seminal force in the civilizing of human nature has been the influence of the succession of these Manifestations of the Divine that extends back to the dawn of recorded history."
(The Universal House of Justice, 2002 April, To the World's Religious Leaders, p. 2)

Another thing that interests me are the social and spiritual implications of interracial marriage for the United States. What might the dynamics of racial unity and justice applied at that most intimate level of the family mean for race unity and justice in America as a whole?

"A family is a nation in miniature. Simply enlarge the circle of the household, and you have the nation. Enlarge the circle of nations, and you have all humanity. The conditions surrounding the family surround the nation. The happenings in the family are the happenings in the life of the nation...for nations are but an aggregate of families." (Abdu'l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 156)

If you are in an interracial marriage, are on your way to an interracial marriage, have been in one in the past or are the child of an interracial marriage, I'd love to hear your thoughts. Of course anyone with a view on the subject is welcome as well.